One of the difficulties facing women with endometriosis is the delay in surgeries used to diagnose and treat endometriosis. According to Endometriosis UK, the majority of endometriosis surgeries are classified as nonurgent and have been delayed indefinitely until hospitals and clinics have a better idea of when they can resume routine operations.
As frustrating and concerning as this situation is, there are things women facing endometriosis can do now to help alleviate pain. Dr. Melanie Marin of New York Physicians urges women to find a doctor who has expertise in nonsurgical treatments. “There are multiple medical options that can be used to treat endometriosis and relieve the debilitating pain while we are waiting for hospitals to reopen for routine business,” she said. For instance, Dr. Marin suggests that medications can be used in combinations to help relieve pain where a single medication has failed.
In addition to the pain women may feel as a result of not being treated surgically, endometriosis symptoms may be exacerbated by stress. Endonews reported on a study that showed stress enhanced the size of endometriotic lesions and contributed to inflammation and pain in women with endometriosis who are exposed to chronic stress.
This two-fold situation can make it difficult to know when to seek care at an outpatient clinic or emergency room. Dr. Karli Goldstein, associate surgeon at the Seckin Endometriosis Center, said it’s important to “avoid the ER at all costs unless you have signs of something extremely acute — you are having trouble breathing, high sustained fevers, intractable nausea/vomiting (signs of bowel obstruction), or a history of pneumothorax.”
Dr. Michael Nimaroff, senior vice president and executive director of OB-GYN Services at Northwell Health, reminded women, “Reach out to your health care provider before going to the ER.”
If you are unable to attend a doctor's visit in person, it may be helpful to schedule a telemedicine appointment with your OB-GYN. You can update your doctor about how you're doing while awaiting surgery and discuss any ongoing symptoms.
Worries about COVID-19, our family and friends, and job or school situations all contribute to stress — which can make symptoms worse. Dr. Lucy Erickson, the director of science programs at the Society of Women’s Health, said, “Taking care of yourself as best as you can, including your mental health, is really important.” Here are some actions you can take to maintain your physical and mental health during this stressful time:
Make a plan to reach out to friends or loved ones by phone or video chat to minimize feelings of isolation. As always, MyEndometriosisTeam offers a support group of over 117,000 women facing the same condition as you, available online.
What are you doing to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic? How are you keeping stress in check? Please share your ideas in the comments below or post them on MyEndometriosisTeam.
Stay up to date with the CDC’s situation summary about COVID-19.